Could You Use a Life Coach?

How a professional life coach can help you change careers

By P.J. Ricciardi

Your friends may have the patience to listen to you complain ad nauseam about your boss, and they may offer sympathetic advice. But a coach can hold your feet to the fire in a way your friends can’t: She’ll demand that you set goals and take action. "A coach isn’t going to let something slide the way a friend would," says Chrissy Carew, a coach in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Of course, a coach can’t solve every problem: If you notice recurring negative patterns in your life — you’ve hated your last three jobs — then a psychologist may be more appropriate. Or you might consider a coach who is licensed as a therapist. (If you’ve been diagnosed with depression or another clinical disorder, the sessions may even be covered by insurance.)

Many people do both. "At one point, I was having trouble setting boundaries at home, so my coach suggested I see a therapist," says Marsha Hatch, 53, who has seen Carew on and off for 10 years to help with her brand-development company in Dover, New Hampshire. "I deal with deeper issues in therapy and then get a lot of practical advice from my coach." Here’s how to hire right.

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Or, if you don’t know anyone who has used a coach, check the databases of the International Coach Federation, a nonprofit organization that certifies coaches (see below).

Ask the Tough Questions

Has the coach worked with someone in your particular situation? If so, what was the outcome? If she says she has improved a client’s business, by what percentage did that client raise sales? If she has helped a client find a new job, in what time frame was she able to do so — and did that client have to take a pay cut?

Schedule a Free Sample Session

See this as a chance to find out if your personalities mesh. Does the coach’s style suit you? "The coach-client relationship is very intimate," Carew says, "so you have to trust your gut." Also note how much talking the coach does herself; it shouldn’t be more than 20 percent of the conversation.

What You Need to Know

Coaching sessions usually take an hour and cost $125 to $250. Most clients meet with their coaches once a week; a typical coaching experience lasts about six months. The International Coach Federation (coachfederation.org) can provide referrals.

Originally published in MORE magazine, April 2007.

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